5:02 pm - Sunday September 24, 2017

Children of Immigrants Exceed their Parents in Income, Education, Social Integration

Second-generation Americans—-the 20 million adult U.S.-born children of immigrants—-are substantially better off than immigrants themselves on key measures of socio-economic attainment, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. They have higher incomes; more are college graduates and homeowners; and fewer live in poverty.

In all of these measures, their characteristics resemble those of the full U.S. adult population. Hispanics and Asian Americans make up about seven-in-ten of today’s adult immigrants and about half of today’s adult second generation. The second-generation of both groups are much more likely than immigrants to speak English, to have friends and spouses outside their ethnic or racial group, to say their group gets along well with others and to think of themselves as “a typical American,” according to Pew Research surveys.

The surveys also find that they place more importance than does the general public on hard work and career success. They are more inclined to call themselves liberal and less likely to identify as Republicans. And roughly seven-in-ten say their standard of living is higher than that of their parents at the same stage of life. In all of these measures, the second generation resembles the immigrant generation more closely than the general public.

As the U.S. Congress takes up immigration legislation, this Pew Research report projects that given current immigration trends and birth rates, virtually all (93%) of the growth of the nation’s working age population between now and 2050 will be accounted for by immigrants and their U.S.-born children.

By then, the nation’s “immigrant stock” (first and second generation combined, adults and children combined) could grow from 76 million now to more than 160 million, at which point it would comprise a record share (37%) of the U.S. population.

This report provides a snapshot portrait of the second generation based on analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, supplemented by a look at attitudes, values, economic experiences, intergroup relations and identity markers, based on recent Pew Research Center surveys of Hispanics and Asian Americans.

Here is a summary of the report’s key findings:

Educational and Economic Attainment: Adults in the second generation are doing better than those in the first generation in adjusted median household income ($58,000 versus $46,000); college degrees (36% versus 29%); and homeownership (64% versus 51%). They are less likely to be in poverty (11% versus 18%) and less likely to have not finished high school (10% versus 28%).

Identity: Pew Research surveys of Hispanics and Asian Americans find that roughly six-in-ten adults in the second generation consider themselves to be a “typical American,” about double the share of immigrants who say the same. Still, most in the second generation also have a strong sense of identity with their ancestral roots.

Intergroup Relations: About half of second-generation Hispanics (52%) and about two-thirds of Asian Americans (64%) say their group gets along well with all other major racial and ethnic groups in America; fewer immigrants in these groups say the same. The second generations of these groups are also more likely than the immigrants to say they have friends outside of their ethnic or country-of-origin group.

Intermarriage: About one-in-six (15%) married second-generation adults have a spouse of a different race or ethnicity from themselves, compared with 8% of all immigrants and 8% of all U.S. adults.

Belief in Hard Work: About three-quarters of second-generation Hispanics (78%) and Asian Americans (72%) say that most people can get ahead if they’re willing to work hard. Similar shares of the immigrant generations of these groups agree. By contrast, 58% of the full U.S. population of adults feels the same way.

Political and Social Values: Second-generation Hispanics and Asian Americans, as well the first generation of each group, identify more with the Democratic Party than the Republican Party and characterize themselves as liberals at higher rates than the general public. About half or more of the second generation believe that abortion should be legal, and more than two-thirds say homosexuality should be accepted by society. The relative youth of the second generation contributes to, but does not fully explain, their liberal political leanings.

Nonmarital Childbearing: Second-generation women who recently gave birth are more likely to be unmarried than immigrant women (41% versus 23%).

Language Usage: About nine-in-ten second-generation Hispanic and Asian-American immigrants are proficient English speakers, substantially more than the immigrant generations of these groups.

Perceptions of Generational Mobility: Most second-generation Hispanics (67%) and Asian Americans (75%) say their standard of living is better than that of their parents at the same stage of life. Similar shares of the immigrant generations of both groups say the same. By contrast, 60% of the full U.S. population feels the same way.

The report is for immediate release and is available at the Pew Research Center’s website at http://www.pewresearch.org

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